media effects: dissemination, discourse and engagement

Talkin’ ‘bout my generation: Generation Why?

Why don’t you all fade away

And don’t try to dig what we all say

I’m not trying to cause a big sensation

I’m just talkin’ ‘bout my generation

–       Pete Townshend, The Who

(Apologies to Messrs Townshend, Daltrey, Moon, Entwistle and Jones- this is certainly neither the first or last time their ageless song will be used to highlight an apparent generation gap.)

Despite a raft of cynical headlines that have plagued us for the last few years, it’s becoming more apparent that Generation Y-bashing in the workplace is slowly dissolving in favour of Gen Y retention strategies. Gen Y – born somewhere between the late 70s and early 2000s – are no strangers to workplace dissent and a group that I firmly identify with, simply by virtue of when I was born. As a result, it’s pretty heartening for me to see the catch-cries of ‘selfish’, ‘arrogant’, ‘impatient’ and ‘entitled’ replaced with ‘eager to learn’, ‘tech-savvy’ and ‘adaptable’. Articles that once read ‘Social media has negative impact on workplace productivity: study’ now say ‘From High-Maintenance to High Productivity’. The latter title is both realistic – I’ve no doubt that we’re still demanding, or that our keenness comes off as entitlement – and encouraging. I’m especially glad to see that the inevitability of Gen Y becoming an integral part of the workforce is something that companies, governments and managers are actively planning for.

The din surrounding Gen Y, social media and the workplace ties in neatly with macro-level media effects theory, as well as attitudinal and behavioural change. Where macro-level media effects theory coincides with a broader community perspective and the political economy worldview of challenging media ownership to achieve objectivity and productivity, we can observe that the increased use of social media and independently managed sources of news and information – so often used as a descriptive characteristic of Gen Y – is indeed a first step to creating open dialogue and interaction, work-life balance and corporate social responsibility.

Of course, it’s not just internal communications where this counts. Communicating to a Gen Y consumer base is just as important, and while companies with a traditionally younger focus (retail, arts and entertainment, etc.) have been adept at picking this up, other sectors, such as government and health, are now catching on. The below infographic (in conjunction with a Twitter chat, featuring health professionals) was crafted by Viva! Communications to better communicate travel health risks to an otherwise flippant generation. It’s this kind of shift in delivery that can truly create behavioural change, and as Gen Y isn’t going anywhere, making sure that we get the message in a mode that we both understand and engage with is critical. With infographics, the medium is indeed the message, and the message is visually stimulating, catchy and informative.

By Viva! Communications

For a more general snapshot of Gen Y in the workplace, take a look at this Pinterest page as well – more infographics then you can poke a stick at, and some debate fodder for the comments section as well!


9 comments on “Talkin’ ‘bout my generation: Generation Why?

  1. T.T.V
    October 8, 2012

    Are infographics trending atm? Only recently discovered what they are at my new workplace but I’m pretty sure I’ve come across them before. Recently saw an article on Ninemsn (not the best authority for news, but so good for a quick news hit) accompanied by an infographic. Definitely added something to the story. I love seeing them now.

  2. tabithaacl
    October 8, 2012

    I was wondering the same thing! I found the following article on it, which includes a nifty little infographic on infographics: Apparently the term was coined in 1976, but you’re definitely right in thinking that the creation, search and usage of infographics has spiked in the past couple of years! I love seeing them as well, and I know it’s popularity has come up in some of the other UTS Rethinking Media blogs too.

  3. Grif Jones
    October 9, 2012

    The graphic is pretty remarkable. Any hostel in the world you check into, you can bet there will be a few Aussies in the bunch. I like the minimalism of our generation, and I don’t mind different worklife standards either. But if we expect the material accumulation of the Baby Boomers with our work habits we will be sorely disappointed.

  4. tabithaacl
    October 9, 2012

    Really interesting point Grif. It’s definitely true that it’s a two-way street – as a whole, Gen Y are finally getting what we want from workplaces and I would hope that this compromise by our superiors pays off for both sides. I know I can’t speak for the rest of Gen Y, but I’m keen to put in the hard yards – here’s hoping we don’t collectively rest on our laurels and fulfill the expectations of being entitled!

  5. MareeEllen
    October 10, 2012

    I did some research on Gen Y in the workplace for another subject and found they were really not so different from me (baby-boomer)! Not that I was surprised – stereotypes don’t grab me.

    Some characteristics in relation to communication that I discovered in my research that could be relevant to the current discussion is the fact that members of Gen Y value collaboration, including across generations, and work environments which encourage social interaction. They are technologically savvy and communicate using the full range of technologies, especially portable technologies and like to be “connected, updated and involved” (Reynolds, Bush & Geist 2008, p. 20). On the downside, some research indicated that this can inhibit their ability to communicate effectively in teams and suggests that their preference for instant gratification and ‘hyperlinked communication’ can result in blunt dealings with their colleagues (Barnes 2009; Buick 2008).

    I hasten to add that these were all the findings in the literature, and our interviews with individuals did not support the findings wholeheartedly. BUT, in relation to your post, it reinforces can be said that the medium has had an effect on work practices for Gen Y, and that workplaces need to take this into consideration and rethink the delivery. I hadn’t realised the infographic was a Gen Y thing – instant gratification??

  6. brandnumber1
    October 14, 2012

    In workplaces culture is often described as “the way we do things around here” not my favourite definition but it is an attempt to make the concept more easily able grasp. And from my experience as we increasingly have many generations in the one workplace “how we do things” and who “we” are s more and more being challenged. To be honest I see as much baby boomer bashing as I do Gen X and Gen Y bashing and rather than define it as a bad thing I think and hope it is really a sign that we have much to learn from each other..rather than just one way of doing things …we are developing a range of possibilities.. what I like encouraging in our workplace is mentoring up ..where I put a Gen Y or X with a baby boomers to help coach and teach them in the ways of social media just as I put baby boomers with Gen X or Y teach so they can share their experience and expertise.

  7. tabithaacl
    October 14, 2012

    I’d be inclined to agree re: instant gratification, Maree – it does seem to emphasise the immediacy/impatience with which Gen Y approach work scenarios. As for the delivery of the message, I think understanding factors such context and interpretation are particularly important not just in relation to inter-generational collaboration but indeed creating a harmonious working environment in general. I think this sentiment is reflected in Roxanne’s comment as well – I think the idea of mentoring is a great one, and would love to see that practice find its way to a few more offices!

  8. kezzakawasaki
    October 15, 2012

    I’m well and truly in the Gen X demographic, but sometimes feel that I’m a Gen Y trapped in a Gen X body! This is a really interesting post and a discussion that I’ve been exploring in my other subject. One the fundamental changes that I see going on in workplaces is the increasing displacement of traditional hierarchical power structures that is largely a result of social media and the increasing focus on more collaborative work practices and the collective intelligence of crowds (as apposed to say, the boss says this so it must be gospel). More junior staff are having a say and making their views heard – I think the pace of change will only speed up, and I’m glad to say that the whole Masters in Communication degree and this subject in particular have well and truly given me some great ideas and skills for the workplace of the future…..

  9. tabithaacl
    October 16, 2012

    I’m with you on that one Kerry – the mixed demographic of the Masters has been eye-opening! I do really love the idea of a more collaborative work environment which, having chatted to friends in varying industries, seems to be catching on across the board.

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This entry was posted on October 8, 2012 by in Generation Y, Media effects theory, Social media and tagged , , .

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